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Rubio’s odd-looking campaign logo is teaching us an important lesson about typography

Look at that center o on that logo. All alone.
Look at that center o on that logo. All alone.
Getty Images

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our Marco Rubio campaign logo, and it's ... awkward-looking.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Your Marco Rubio for President logo.

A photo posted by Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) on

The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe Instagrammed the new logo on Monday afternoon, and the Twitterverse responded with mixed reactions after Rubio officially announced he's running for president in 2016.

You can try to guess what he's going for with the all-lowercase letters — a hip, youthful disregard for stuffy capitalization rules? A fresh approach to governing the country, as well as continental-US-dot-on-the-i patriotism? National unity for everyone except Alaska and Hawaii? But no matter what you think, something is off here.

Look long enough, and you'll see it: m arc o ru bio.

What we have here is a kerning problem. "Kerning" refers to the spacing between letters. It's easy to see when you have slanted letters like A and W right next to each other. Here's an example I made in Microsoft Word without kerning.

No kerning

And here's one with kerning.


On the top one, see how the W is all by its lonesome? Kerning takes care of that on the bottom one, tightening everything up and allowing the A and W to noticeably invade each other's space — the serifs on the W overhang the serifs on the As.

In the Rubio logo, it looks like some really uneven kerning. The lowercase r in "marco" encroaches on the c's space, but then there are huge gulfs between the rounder letters, like m and a, as well as c and o. When the spacing between all the letter pairs is irregular, the words end up looking disjointed.

The letters candidates use in their logos can say a lot — John McCain, for example, famously used the Optima font in his 2008 logo. That's the same font used to carve names onto the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial.

And plenty of candidates have faced criticism of their logos from day one. People complained at first that Romney's tricolored 2012 logo had an Aquafresh look to it. And Hillary Clinton's weirdly hospital-sign-reminiscent logo, unveiled on Sunday, has likewise drawn criticism.

Once a candidate has rolled out a logo, it's really too late to change it much. But then, after enough campaigning, an arrowed H or an all-lowercase marco rubio could become ubiquitous enough that people stop caring about how it looks. But in the meantime, Rubio could probably at least make the subtle kerning fix right now and make graphic design nerds squirm a little bit less.

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